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Hiawatha Pete

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Member since: Sun Feb 9, 2020, 12:30 AM
Number of posts: 889

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Canadian Rockies by Rail - On a Budget

VIA Rail's Westbound Skeena, Jasper, Alberta, bound for Prince Rupert
(More pics Below)

Happy Sunday Afternoon, DU'ers! Hope everyone is keeping safe.

With news of the seemingly encouraging results of the vaccination campaigns underway in both the U.S. & Canada, and with the border presumably set to reopen in the not-too-distant future,
I thought I might share some info, pics & ideas for a trip by train through the Canadian Rockies specifically for those on a budget.

There is a relatively little-known train that runs from Jasper, Alberta in the front range of the Rockies to Prince Rupert on the northern Pacific coast of British Columbia.

The train is classified as a remote essential service and as a result it's operation is partially funded by the Government of Canada, which makes for some very affordable fares.
For a $262.40CAD total fare (131.20 per person), two people can travel on a two day journey through through the Canadian Rockies to the Pacific Coast.
There is an overnight stop half-way at Prince George, BC where passengers can overnight in a local hotel (overnight accommodation is not included in the fare but still affordable.).

This train - VIA train #5 & 6, formerly known as "The Skeena" in the timetables - has always been known to the locals as the "Rupert Rocket".

Regardless of the moniker, the atmosphere on the train is definitely "down-home", the attendants are super friendly & courteous, and so are the people in the local online communities which this train serves. It is without a doubt one of the best train experiences I've ever had.

I'll try my best to give an idea of what travelling on this train involves and how budget-friendly it is:

To get to Jasper, AB from the U.S., you can simply drive there - or fly to Edmonton, AB and pick up a rental car at the Edmonton International Airport (we used Avis which has very affordable one-way rentals - starting at $58CAD/day for a compact when I checked today. It's about a 4 hr drive from Edmonton to Jasper)

Once in Jasper you can drop off your rental car & overnight at one of the less expensive options like the Astoria Hotel across the street from the Jasper train station. This is where we stayed & the rates start at $117CAD/night when I checked on their website today. As a bonus, virtually everything in Jasper is within walking distance (hotels, train station, rental cars, restaurants)

Because of the pandemic, the train is currently operating 1 day per week, however the normal schedule is 3 days per week. Assuming you arrived the night before, the next day after breakfast and after checking out from your hotel you then make your way to the train station. Here is VIA's current timetable, the "Skeena" is on pg 19 of 22: https://www.viarail.ca/sites/all/files/media/pdfs/schedules/VIARail_Timetable-Horaire.pdf

It's recommended that you purchase your ticket/boarding pass in advance from VIA Rail Canada (either by phone or online at https://www.viarail.ca ) as doing so is often more cost-effective than purchasing your ticket at the last minute. If you have any special needs or concerns you may check with the agents at the ticket counter. Otherwise simply wait for the train with boarding pass in hand.

In the summer there are two classes on the Skeena, economy & touring. In the off peak season (October-May) there is only economy class.

When I checked, the fare for two people in economy class was $262.40 CAD, grand total, two people, Jasper to Prince Rupert, 2 days on the train - taxes included. That's with a AAA discount which gives you 10% off. Add 10% if you're not a AAA member.

Once onboard the train (which departs at 12:45pm) you settle into your seat and enjoy the scenery & the journey. Seats are unreserved first come first serve. At the end of the train there is the "Park" car with a great observation dome on the second level, and the tail end 'Bullet' lounge plus the 'Mural' lounge with bar & snack bar on the lower level. Meals are served at-seat and are extra when travelling economy class and included in the fare when travelling touring class.

In the off peak season (October-May) the Park dome car is available to all classes including economy, in the summer it's reserved for touring class.

The seats in all classes are extremely spacious, have generous recline & leg rests and have huge windows.

Departing from the scenic mountain-locked resort town of Jasper, AB, the train runs along the shores of the stunningly beautiful Moose Lake, then over the continental divide through the famed Yellowhead pass with views of Mount Robson, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 12,972 ft, and on to Mcbride, BC with it’s elegant old Grand Trunk Pacific Station, & following the upper Fraser river before arriving at the overnight stop at Prince George, BC.

At the end of the first day you arrive in Prince George. We stayed at the Travelodge Prince George, prices start at $83 night and there's a restaurant in the hotel. Though we could have walked there, we took a cab.

The next day after checking out from your hotel you return to the train station to board the train which departs at 8 am. By this point you are well versed in the routine of the train. This next day finds the train passing along the Nechako River and beautiful Burns Lake, then on to Smithers, BC with its majestic views of Hudson Bay Mountain and Kathlyn Glacier before continuing on its way through the Coast Mountains & along the Skeena River. After a day of spectacular scenery you arrive on the Pacific Coast at Prince Rupert in the evening where a cab takes you to your hotel. We stayed at the Highliner Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre which has great views of the waterfront & harbor, and there is a restaurant in the hotel. Prices start at $103/night.

Prince Rupert has a regional airport with connecting flights to Vancouver International and a ferry terminal with service to Vancouver Island.

So without further ado, see below for some pics of a trip on the Skeena which my wife & I took in 2019.

For more pics, check out our website at https://northamericabyrail.info/a-trip-on-via-rails-skeena-jasper-ab-prince-rupert-bc/

Hope you enjoy!

Jasper VIA Rail Station

CN 4-8-2 type steam locomotive on display at Jasper VIA Station

On board the westbound Skeena meeting a CN freight, Jasper, AB

Mt Fitzwilliam, British Columbia

The westbound Skeena travelling along Moose Lake

Grizzly bear alongside the tracks

Mount Robson, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, 12,972 ft. Summit is only visible on average 16 days per year.

Coach seating on VIA Rails Skeena

Scenic dome section in Park car on VIA Rails Skeena

Mural Lounge in Park car on VIA Rails Skeena

Bullet Lounge in Park car on VIA Rails Skeena

Travelling through the Rocky Mountains, Dunster, BC

Travelling through the Rocky Mountains, Dunster, BC

By train along the Fraser River west of McBride, BC

Onboard the Skeena in the Rockies west of McBride, BC

Entering a tunnel west of McBride, BC

Onboard the Skeena - in the Rockies & along the Fraser, west of McBride, BC

View from rear of train crossing Hansard Bridge over the Fraser River

Detraining from The Skeena, after arrival at Prince George, BC, for an overnight stop

Our room at the Travelodge, Prince George, BC hotel

Back onboard The Skeena the next morning, crossing the Nechako River

Onboard the Skeena running along Fraser Lake

Lunch on the Skeena

Burns Lake, BC

"Park" car on tail end of the Skeena. Burns Lake, BC, station stop

Onboard the Skeena along Decker Lake

View from the vestibule. Onboard the westbound Skeena east of Houston, BC

Town of Houston, BC

Meet with a CN ballast train near Telkwa, BC

Passing the caboose on rear of CN ballast train

Onboard the westbound Skeena at the Smithers, BC, VIA Rail Station

Onboard the Skeena departing Smithers, BC

Hudson Bay Mountain

Kathlyn Glacier

Crossing a trestle in Bulkley Canyon at dusk

VIA Station & Ferry Terminal at Prince Rupert, BC, on the Pacific Coast

Posted by Hiawatha Pete | Sun Jun 27, 2021, 06:56 PM (20 replies)

U.S. politicians fume over Canada's extended border restrictions



American politicians who are normally friendly to Canada are fuming over news that the border will remain closed to non-essential travel for at least another month.

"I wish there was a more artful way to say this — but this is bullshit," said Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democratic congressman whose Buffalo, N.Y., district touches the border.

A senior Republican from New York, Rep. Elise Stefanik, demanded a unilateral reopening in a recent letter to the administration — urging Biden to get tougher with his Canadian counterpart.

Biden "missed a huge opportunity at the G7 summit to stand up for America and deliver a plan to safely reopen," Stefanik said in a statement Friday. "Instead, caving to Prime Minister Trudeau's incessant desire to delay.


My wife & I miss driving to Upstate New York from Ontario. We miss the occasional cross border shopping junket.

We miss seeing the natural beauty of Letchworth State Park.

We miss the many train trips across the country on Amtrak to places like Seattle, LA, Glacier National Park, Miami.

But sorry Ms Stefanik, it's the duty of Canada's elected representatives to represent the safety and interests of the citizens of Canada, not your interests or the commercial interests of your backers.

We do not want the border open yet if doing so will jeopardize Canadian lives.

Americans should want the same for themselves, as Canada has not yet achieved its own vaccination targets.
Posted by Hiawatha Pete | Mon Jun 21, 2021, 01:04 PM (9 replies)

The claim that gas taxes "pay for roads" & electric cars get a "free ride" is bullshit

As someone who drives a hybrid and who would love to drive an EV someday, I've run into this argument several times.

1) First off, the simple fact is gas powered cars require fuel infrastructure. Infrastructure like big tanker trucks that pound the roads to bits - with one truck causing as much road damage as 9,600 cars:

Page 23 "Excessive Truck Weight: An Expensive Burden We Can No Longer Afford"

Electric cars don't require fuel trucks, and so are are responsible for far less highway damage than fossil fuel powered cars.

2) The claim that gas taxes pay for the roads is B.S.
Gas taxes come nowhere near to covering the cost of highway maintenance.

As an example, between 41 and 55 percent of Wisconsin’s road money comes from non-users: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2011/12/12/transit%E2%80%99s-not-sucking-the-taxpayer-dry-roads-are/

Here in Canada, government spending on roads is $29 billion tax dollars/yr.

"Even adding revenues from permit, licence and other fees collected by all levels of government, the total revenue from road users amounts to only $15.5 billion
per year across Canada.

More than $13 billion per year –nearly half – of the annual spending on roads is subsidized by other revenue sources":


13 billion tax dollars per year from other revenue sources - like property taxes - which every homeowner must pay.

Regardless of the type of vehicle they drive.

Regardless of whether they even drive at all.
Posted by Hiawatha Pete | Sun Jun 20, 2021, 06:47 PM (26 replies)

Got my second shot!

Got my 2nd shot of Astrazeneca today.

Here in Ontario, Canada that was the first vaccine to become available to my age group.

And before anyone starts ranting about how great Pfizer/Moderna is (and yes they are great, and so is J&J) let me just say I'm extremely happy to be able to have my choice of the getting the same vaccine for both my 1st & 2nd doses - as recommended by the manufacturer & as proven effective by 80% of the population of the U.K. & counting.

The only side effect with my 2nd dose so far - a lack of Springsteen on Broadway...

Yep. I'm good with it.

Posted by Hiawatha Pete | Fri Jun 18, 2021, 10:42 PM (35 replies)

Hamilton researchers have recommended treatment for rare blood clotting

From Global News Canada


"Researchers at McMaster University are recommending a pair of treatments to fight Vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), identified in a small number of COVID-19 vaccine recipients.

A group from the McMaster Platelet Immunology Laboratory (MPIL), building off of previous investigations into a condition that prevents blood clotting, are suggesting that a combination of anti-clotting drugs with high doses of intravenous immunoglobulin — an antibody solution — may be effective against VITT.

VITT has been associated with but not definitively linked to the viral vector shots from Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson."


For AstraZeneca first-dose recipients like myself, the risk of a clot with a second shot is orders of magnitude less than the first (which is why Canada is now only giving Astrazeneca as second doses to those who had AstraZeneca as their first, and why I'm not worried about getting my second shot of AZ).

That said, still good news - and may be applicable to clots caused by the J&J as well.
Posted by Hiawatha Pete | Fri Jun 11, 2021, 11:33 AM (0 replies)
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